A Mother's Eulogy

by Beth Price

לעולם לא תשכח את התקווה

Never Forget the Hope

Many of you may be thinking right now, how can I have the strength and courage to stand here in front of you and eulogize my child, a mother’s worst nightmare. But actually, I have only 1/1000 of the courage that Sam had.  Real courage is coming out as transgender to your family, friends, and the world. Courage is being a 5’11” broad built man, putting on a bright blue sleeveless turquoise dress, jewelry, and carefully applied make-up, then walking down the block where you grew up to take the train into NYC to meet a friend. To be true to yourself, despite the judgments of society, that is true courage. Yet, when I said this to Sam she became fiercely angry and said vehemently: “This is not courage mom, I am just being.”

I thought about telling many stories regarding Sam’s beauty, selflessness, empathy, intelligence, and passion but I realized the futility of my words because my love for Sam is truly ineffable. And the beauty of Sam’s life cannot be captured verbally. The essence of Sam’s soul and spirit exists on another plane entirely for me. 

Nevertheless, I will share a few recent anecdotes which reflect Sam’s character and leave others to speak more about Sam. And then I will ask each and every one of you to do two things. 
Sam loved nature and liked to walk around barefoot, not just inside but everywhere. She loved the feel of the earth beneath her feet. At times she was asked to leave restaurants for being barefoot. Sam was passionate. When Sam returned home after her first year at Oberlin College where she had just taken an environmental class, she asked me with complete earnestness, if she could turn our front yard into a sustainable garden. I agreed to begin with a small portion and the very next day Sam and I went to Home Depot and to the garden store. She built a beautiful vegetable garden and it flourished with tomatoes, jalapenos, lettuce, and herbs that summer. She then went on to make salsas, and hot sauces and dehydrated herbs. 

Sam was unmaterialistic. When family and friends asked Sam what she wanted for High School graduation presents, she requested from each person a book that was meaningful to them and in some way changed their lives. I gave Sam Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. For Chanukah and her birthday she insisted, and I mean insisted, on NO gifts just donations to several charities. She sent us her list of charities, which to name a few were: The Mazzoni House, a place for Transgender Homeless people, Black Lives Matter, The Trevor Project—A suicide prevention service for trans people, and an organization to aid Syrian Refugees. Sam championed the underprivileged, the underserved and despised inequity. Last winter after volunteering in Guatemala during her winter term, she informed us we could only buy Fair Trade Coffee, bananas, and chocolate. I agreed, but slipped up once, buying just the organic ones. The following day when I passed the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, there were the bananas with big, bold, black letters written with a sharpie pen: “SLAVE BANANAS.” 

This past winter break, I offered to buy Sam a new winter coat that was more feminine. Naturally, Sam resisted. But I nagged and persisted, and finally Sam relented. She refused to go to the mall, a place she detested, so we went into NYC. Let me tell you what it was like to walk down the street with Sam. As we headed to the stores, Sam stopped to take money from her wallet to give to a homeless person. Then we moved on and she stopped again. I started to grow impatient but Sam was undeterred. By the time we reached our destination she had given every homeless person we passed along the way money. Sam was always teaching me and reminding me what was truly important in life.

Now, before I make my requests of each of you, I want to say a few words about Jonah, Sam’s older brother. Jonah was a wonderful and loving brother. Not to say there weren’t many fights, angry moments, and at times distance between them.  But they had a strong beautiful brotherly love growing up. And in the past year were coming together again, sharing interests in so many things. And when Sam came out as Transgender, nobody was more loving and accepting than Jonah. While the rest of us struggled to get the pronouns correct, Jonah didn’t miss a single beat, and got it right every time, right up to Sam’s dying day. Thank you Jonah for being a sensitive and loving big brother.

There is a great temptation to go on and tell you the hundreds of ways Sam was a mensch, but instead let me end with my two requests. To honor Sam’s memory and keep her spirit alive, I ask each of you to do two things:

First: Be less judgmental. It is human nature to judge, we all do it, all the time. I, in fact, am guilty of doing it way too much. But please, next time you are judging another person, pause for a moment and ask yourself why. Whether it be because they are gay, transgender, obese, of a different race or have a job you deem beneath you, or are suffering from a mental illness . . . please choose compassion over judgment. Sam always did. And people who are trans, like Sam was, genuinely need to feel acceptance and love. If you want a real life example of acceptance, just look at her 86 year old grandfather, my Dad.  At Sam’s Oma’s (grandmother’s) 85th birthday party last spring at an upscale restaurant in NYC, Sam came dressed in a skirt and blouse adorned with jewelry and make-up. My Dad went directly over to Sam, gave her a big hug and said “You look beautiful.”  That, my friends, is genuine acceptance without judgment.

My second request: Sam thrived on doing random acts of kindness. She spurned and detested accolades or recognition and actually preferred to go unnoticed. She gave because it made her feel good and she loved to give to others. So whenever you are able, whether it be daily, weekly, or monthly, please perform a random act of kindness and think of Sam.

Sadly, tragically, Sam could give and be kind to others but not to herself. In her later years, she led a private life of desperation and agony. And I pray, with all my heart that she is no longer suffering and is at peace.

And please know, while Sam’s spirit will always reside within me, I will miss my daughter, every day and every moment for the rest of my life.